Midnight Hours

A short vignette I wrote called ‘Midnight Hours‘, originally published on Ricochet.com:

‘Nurse! … Nurse!’ Footsteps ran towards the sound of the screaming. A door was flung open, the light from the hallway falling on the man in the bed. ‘Where’s the rest of me!’

The nurse sighed and, businesslike, stepped forward, flinging the covers back. ‘Right where I left it the last four times,’ she said. ‘I told you, the anaesthetic takes a while to wear off.’

The nurse could see the blush rising on his face, even in this light.

‘Oh,’ he said.

‘Yes, “oh.”‘ She drew the bedclothes back into place over him. ‘Now, Jimmy,’ she said, smiling, and without looking at his chart, ‘are you going to settle down, or am I going to have to sit in with you till you do? You’re just having a reaction to the anesthetic again. It happens sometimes.’

‘I …’

She sighed theatrically and settled in the armchair by Jimmy’s hospital bed. ‘Do you remember who I am?’

‘You’re …’ He tried to think.

She was just opening her mouth to tell him when he got it.

‘You’re Karen. One of the nurses. Right?’

‘Close enough,’ said Karen. ‘Do you remember why you’re here?’

‘I— …’ He screwed his face up trying to remember. A hand rested gently on his, drawing it away from his head and back onto the coverlet.

‘Easy now. It’s okay. It doesn’t matter right now. Come on, shh, I’m here.’ She gave him a quick glance. No bleeding. His breathing was all right for now. But he was getting a bit too het up. ‘Do you remember what we were talking about before — you were showing me what you were working on.’

He tried to nod, ‘Y-y-yeah …’

Her eyes went to the jumble of papers and pencils on the table by the bed. ‘All right if I take a look?’

He was starting to doze. She took the slump of his head for a yes and started leafing through a few of the pages. There was a story she’d been reading on and off that she’d like to find out how it ended. There were also drawings. Guess there wasn’t that much else to do to while away the hours when you were sick and on your own. Young guy like him, you’d think there’d be somebody at least.

Karen smiled as she came to one of her favourites, a cartoon of some of the nurses performing a musical number. And there were sketches. Looked like he hadn’t been doing much writing but … ‘Hey,’ she said, ‘you still awake?’

‘Yeah …’ came Jimmy’s voice. As if it were coming back into focus some more. ‘I’m awake.’

She took a little pencil-torch out of her front pocket and shone it on the drawing. ‘This who I think it is?’

He turned his head to glance at it. The blush started again. ‘I-I—‘

‘Hey, hey … It’s all right. I like it.’

‘You do?’ he said.

‘Yeah. Not many people notice that about me.’

Jimmy looked surprised. ‘How could they miss it?’

‘Mister,’ she said, smiling very, very broadly, ‘I think you’ve had a little too much anesthetic. Can I keep this one?’ she added, holding up the page to him.

‘Sure,’ he said. ‘I c-c-can drawww anoth …’

‘Lightweight,’ she whispered, still smiling. She checked his breathing. Sleeping like a baby.

She looked down at the sketch again as she stepped quietly back towards the door. Honestly. She shook her head. A halo … And swan’s wings … She poked her head round as she was drawing the door shut. ‘G’night, Jimmy,’ she whispered. ‘Same time tomorrow?’

There was a drowsy murmur from the man in the bed as he felt his guardian angel leave the room. Her secret was safe with him …